Should We Grade Schools on Grit? DARPA’s Quest for the Super Soldier, plus more weekly links


A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • Policymakers and educators are increasingly interested in bringing character development and assessment into the classroom. Some want to go as far as employing character assessments, like the grit scale, to measure and reward school performance. Angela Duckworth, who pioneered the research on grit, says not so fast, “Don’t Grade Schools on Grit.” (New York Times)


  • The Defense Advanced Research Protection Agency (DARPA) is trying to build super soldiers. Their new training program, Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT), attempts to accelerate the learning process by activating the peripheral nervous system in the brain through stimulation of nerves in the skin. The hope is that TNT will help soldiers speed up their skills in foreign languages, cryptography, and more. (Defense Advanced Research Protection Agency)
  • Should companies prioritize employee satisfaction or the bottom line? Analyzing the link between employee satisfaction and stock market returns over the last 28 years, Alex Edmans found that happier employees mean better long-run returns—between 2.3 and 3.8 percent per year. (Harvard Business Review)
  • Neuroscientist Daniel Barron found jury duty quite unsettling. The legal definition of guilt doesn’t line up with a scientific understanding of free will or responsibility. Writing in Scientific American, he asks whether jurors can accurately discern whether or not a person had the ability to tell right from wrong and wonders to what extent neuroscience should inform our legal conception of criminal behavior. (Scientific American)
  • How do we cope with traumatic experiences? Reflecting on his brother’s kidnapping and murder, David Kushner explores the research on post-traumatic growth, “a psychological phenomenon in which trauma deepens life’s meaning.” (The New Yorker)
  • By overprescribing antibiotics, doctors are contributing to the rise of superbugs which kill 23 thousand Americans per year. Doctor education and incentives don’t seem to be successful in stopping the trend. Simple behavioral interventions, however, like showing doctors how their prescription practices stack up against their peers or requiring them to write quick a “antibiotic justification note,” provide greater promise. (New York Times)
  • From federal tax enrollment to delinquent debt repayment, the White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) has been using behavioral science insights to improve the integrity and efficiency of government policy. With its first year complete, the SBST reflects on its work and looks to the future. (Behavioral Science and Policy)
  • Keep your eyes peeled for the newest behavioral science journal, Nature Human Behavior, accepting submissions starting in April 2016 and launching in January 2017. (Nature Human Behavior)

Disclosure: Angela Duckworth is a member of The Psych Report’s Advisory Board.


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